Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a Nation of Laws, Not of Men

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November 17, 2009 by D Stack

There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men.

– John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776

The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.

– Sir Winston Churchill, November 21, 1943

There’s been a lot of conversation about the recent decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged and self-professed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. To give some context, House Minority Lead John Boehner stated:

The Obama Administration’s irresponsible decision to prosecute the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks in New York City puts the interests of liberal special interest groups before the safety and security of the American people. The possibility that Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his co-conspirators could be found ‘not guilty’ due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.

I think Jon Stewart puts this into an amusing though accurate perspective, as he often does. “So we’re going to live up to our nation’s ideals.”

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There seems to be some feeling that by giving him a trial we’re giving him some sort of special right. I believe that doing this shows that we are a great nation not afraid of a group of self-important thugs who live in caves and twist their religion to suit murderous needs. Minority Leader Boehner suggests, with apparent horror, he might be found innocent. While I find that incredibly unlikely, isn’t what makes this justice that the outcome is not preordained? No summary judgment or star chamber. A real trial. Evidence presented. The accused facing his accusers – the people of New York City, of whose number he professes to have plotted the murder of thousands. It’s easy to live up to our ideals as a nation of laws when the issue being considered is Aunt May’s speeding ticket or a custody dispute over some cute puppy. But when challenged we just run to a pre-ordained outcome?

I think it is time to remove the mystique from these people. I called them thugs and I believe it is what they are. They are not superhumans. If we imprison Khalid Shekh Mohammed in a supermax prison he is not going to walk through walls. If he is kept in isolation he is not going to be able to spread his poison to others. Put him and his ilk in front of the world and let them share their vision of the future with us.

The “technicality” Boehner and others seem to be worried about is the elephant in the room – the fact that the United States used “enhanced” interrogations on Mohammed. An act that the United States has considered a war crime when used against its soldiers. But I have to believe that there is sufficient evidence that he can be convicted even should all information gained from such interrogations be thrown out of court. And shame on us for engaging in those actions in the first place.

I’m against capital punishment even for a monster who could deliberately plot the deaths of innocents. But I can think of no greater punishment than to lock him away, isolated from an audience, where he can witness the United States endure year after year.

 

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